Far too often people focus on how their day starts, how their task is being accomplished or what must be done first RATHER THAN on how their day ends, what progress was actually made or what must be done to consider an assignment complete. We focus on the path that must be taken rather than upon the end that must be reached – on how quickly we start and what kind of “pace” we should maintain to complete each “race” we run rather than focusing all of our efforts and energies to a strong finish. Regardless of how well each individual assignment is performed, one cannot do only what has been assigned and expect to receive more than minimal reward, growth or success. Looking back (instead of ahead), remaining content with the present (rather than building upon the present as a springboard to the future), and doing what works (as opposed to seeking what might work better) are all signs of stagnation. An acorn cannot become an oak tree without the proper conditions and nourishment present to define a path for its future growth. What kind of a butterfly would a caterpillar become if it were not to finish the race? An individual cannot become “one” with another without caring more for the other than for him or her self. If one wishes to achieve “the possible” rather than being content to accomplish those things that are “probable,” the race that is run must be built upon a path that transforms “what is” into “what could be.” Our sights must be firmly focused upon that which has yet to be considered or accomplished if we are to run the race as never before run – to climb mountains not yet conquered rather than being content to perform those things that have been tried, tested and found to be safe. In order to focus on the ends (rather than being caught in the means) – to accomplish and achieve (rather than simply to perform and comply) – we must strive to:
1) Clarify the difference between efficiency and effectiveness. Efficient individuals make sure that every investment of time and/or energy has a direct and measurable impact. They rarely waste time or energy doing unnecessary things that “could be done or might be nice” but are not related to the accomplishment of their objectives. Effective individuals are focused – accomplishing things that need doing in order to move forward – now. Effective individuals accomplish all things well as long as they advance their cause or move them towards the accomplishment of defined objectives. An efficient individual may tell others what to do then get out of the way – coordinating actions and monitoring ideas so that all involved can work in a complimentary fashion towards the accomplishment of goals and objectives.
2) Stop believing that we are irreplaceable. If an individual feels that nobody could EVER do what he or she does, that person has probably limited what he or she can accomplish. When we feel nobody could ever do the things we do as well as we do them ourselves – and accept that as an unwavering paradigm – we become so enamored with our ability to accomplish defined objectives that we fail to identify possible alternative outcomes. If nobody else can do (or even wishes to try) your job, then you will never advance beyond the rung of the ladder upon which you have firmly positioned yourself.
3) Quit believing we know all the answers. People who know the right answers in life often find themselves thrust into management roles. Those that ask the right questions are much more valuable than those who can give all the right answers – often becoming well respected leaders rather than successful managers. In order to finish each race strongly we must ALWAYS be open to new ideas, techniques, and ways of doing things. We can truly contribute to success and profitability – or experience all that life could offer – ONLY after identifying the limitations of current systems, policies, practices or procedures (by asking questions as to how they might be improved) then intentionally acting to implement change. Nothing will change, however, until we decide to act – to move forward by implementing the answers received of the questions we asked (rather than doing things as we have always done them because we think we know all the answers ourselves).
4) ALWAYS give credit to others (when deserved) and accept responsibility for “learning experiences” (when blame should be shared). People recognizing and acknowledging the ideas and actions of others tend to share a never-ending ride to the top – enjoying a seemingly unlimited potential “upside” while minimizing (but not eliminating) their individual risk. Those that take credit for the ideas of others (and assign blame for failure or shift focus to deflect accountability) may not have supportive friends, relationships or peers to prop them up in the future.
5) Add to our existing abilities and upgrade outdated skills, refusing to accept “what is” as a destination and “what has always been” as an infallible truth. What was once necessary to maintain a life-long job or to enjoy a long-lasting relationship is no longer sufficient in today’s ever-changing world. Employees who “fail to know” typically fail to grow – those who refuse to retrain typically will not remain. Unless an individual brings more into a relationship than he or she could ever expect it to return – is willing to give to another more than is taken (unconditionally and without expectations) and seeks to gain more by sharing than by receiving, he or she will never realize the treasures awaiting them just beyond their current reality.
While we may be able to start a race (or a project) on our own, we need the help, support and efforts of those around us to finish it in the best possible manner. Life is not a sprint run within a vacuum – it is a marathon that requires a team of runners each relying upon the other for strength, encouragement and support. Turning individual accomplishment into achievement that impacts many requires more than singular thoughts that initiate personal actions. We must leverage the abilities of a team having diverse experiences, different perspectives and unique aptitudes to produce the best possible outcomes that will be supported, championed and carried out by the most possible people. We must build the foundation upon which we stand (so that we are firmly rooted and grounded in our convictions) as we intentionally choose the paths upon which we will travel (keeping our eyes wide open to avoid unwarranted or unwanted turbulence). We must be approachable as we acknowledge other’s abilities while allowing them to learn from their mistakes (rather than making them fear failure) – encouraging the individuals around us to make personal contributions to the resolution of an issue THEN recognize the importance of their input by giving them appropriate credit (and rewards) when due. Leaders able to mobilize the thoughts, abilities, capabilities and experiences of those around them achieve objectives not yet imagined and reach heights not previously considered possible.